“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.”
― Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic
When we are in relationship, we confuse commitment with timely and energetic responsibility. Yes, of course, in order to build a life we must invest time. But, that time we invest should not feel like a chore, it should feel like a choice.
We’re here today to bust a myth: that when you find “the one” (whatever that means), you will want to spend all your time and all your energy with and on this person. There are a few sub-issues to this: A, that there is only one person out there floating around the cosmos, twiddling their thumbs waiting for your arrival, B, that when you find each other it will be smooth sailing, and lastly C, that you will only ever want them and no one else. To be very blunt, this is bullshit. For all of you that have ever been in a relationship, we know that these are romanticisations of reality that actually stop us from finding healthy and grounded relationships. To actually create a common ground with someone, you need three things: communication, space and desire. Let’s get into it.
Communication means honest dialogue and intuitive non-verbal cues. It is everyone’s job in the relationship to provide both of these tools. A classic example of improper communication is the loaded, “are you okay?” question. Here, one person is beating around the bush, only to receive a dishonest “uh-huh” answer from their partner. In other words, be clear, if you are feeling some type of way, say it straight up. Be mindful of the way you express your thoughts and feelings and find a balance between being straightforward and being gentle. You need first and foremost to be very honest about your stance, while also maintaining love and respect for the receiving end of your commentary. It is important to find a compromise between beating around the bush and being insensitive. For example, “When you did or said_____ it made me feel____, can we discuss that?” Don’t let things bottle up, you will become resentful and feel disconnected. The receiver too has a responsibility, and that is their non-verbal communication as well as their honest response. Do not shut down your partner’s feeling, with your body language or your words. What your mouth says your body either backs up or denies, so make sure you’re communicating your truth, not what you think you should do or say. This rule goes for fun stuff too, be clear about the expectations you have from your partner(s), they shouldn’t be a secret, they should be spoken about and enjoyed by the whole. No one’s a mind reader, if you haven’t expressed what you want, it won’t show up.
We are all individuals, we all need our time alone. Part of growing up is having the understanding that taking time to yourself is not selfish, it is loving. This should be a very basic ground for your relationship if you want to feel like yourself. Do not be insulted if your partner asks for space, be grateful. In fact, schedule time in for yourself where no one else is in mind. Maybe this means an early morning walk, or cooking dinner alone at home, or maybe this means just spending time with friends on a night out without your partner(s). In order to create a generous space where you can come together, you need to nurture yourself as an individual first. Take this seriously.
Step two brings us to our last and final point: in order to desire we need space. Ever heard that expression, distance makes the heart grow fonder? Well, it’s true, it doesn’t mean your partner needs to live overseas, it means that you are given energetic and physical space away from them, where you can be in your own bubble. Desire comes when you feel a distance between yourself and the other, and can watch them in their own world without involving yourself in it. We all talk about mystery, well, this is really what it cracks down to- space. When we think we know everything about our lover, we are turned off, predictability isn’t sexy. So, know that that space that you take will ensure more desire coming for you and coming from you.
At the end of the day, we all want to be wanted, to want and to feel safe. Take a minute today and think about whether you’ve implemented these three steps into your relationship routine. What has happened when you have? What has happened when you haven’t? Don’t judge yourself or your partner. Instead, start paying attention and become the mindful and present partner we know you are.